Forest plan: Good and bad
Editor’s note: Last week, Pitkin County staff members offered their thoughts on different aspects of the proposed changes in the revised White River National Forest Plan. Their comments were aimed at helping county and city officials define positions on the preferred “Alternative D.” The following is the first in a series of three articles outlining the views of these county staff members. Brian Pettet, deputy director of public works for Pitkin County, has both praise and criticism for the trail management provisions in the revised White River National Forest Plan.
Pettet indicated that he generally agrees with the selection of Alternative D as the preferred management plan. “Staff was impressed with the level of detail in Pitkin County’s area of the White River National Forest,” Pettet wrote in a memo.
While “Alternative D” would close off a number of areas now popular for snowmobiles, Pettet said other areas will be opened up.
The plan calls for closure of the Montezuma Basin Road to snowmobiles, and it would forbid snowmobilers from going off the closed portion of Highway 82 or Lincoln Creek Road. Both suggestions are aimed at reducing trespassing in wilderness by snowmobilers.
But snowmobilers, Pettet said, will have additional trails on Richmond Hill and additional access to unlimited snowmobiling in and beyond Kobey Park.
Pettet’s recommendation for East and West Maroon Creek trails, now used for hiking and horseback riding, is that the “pristine” wilderness designation be changed to “primitive” wilderness. The present “pristine” recommendation would mean the trails would be closed, while the “primitive” designation would allow continued maintenance of the popular trails.
The Hunter Creek Task Force, a citizen group moderated by Pettet, has recommended that the road to Bald Knob, near the McNamara Hut, be opened to vehicular traffic as far as the boundary of the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, for hunters only, during big-game seasons.
As for travel management in the Sopris Ranger District, much of which also falls in Pitkin County, Pettet had further comments.
Hay Park, at the base of Mt. Sopris, has been designated as a snowmobile route from Prince Creek Road, south of Carbondale, to Capitol Creek. Pettet is recommending that the area be closed to snowmobiles, because of the problems with snowmobilers trespassing in the wilderness.
“The wilderness trespass problems in this area have been extreme, including motorized travel up Mt. Sopris,” Pettet wrote. “If snowmobilers are allowed to use the Hay Park Trail it is unlikely that they will remain on the trail in the open meadows through which this trail passes. This regulation would be extremely difficult to enforce.”
The Eagle-Thomasville road has been designated as a primary access to a large area for unlimited snowmobile use. As a result, Pettet is calling on the Forest Service to identify parking alternatives for snowmobilers near Thomasville.
Pettet praises the plan for setting aside an area near McClure Pass for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, while retaining the area around Four-Mile Park for motorized winter use.
He noted that some trails in the Thompson Creek area (the majority of which is recommended for wilderness designation) begin on private land. He is recommending that the Forest Service try to acquire parcels of land at the trailheads or obtain trail easements, to guarantee continued public access.
In the Coal Basin area near Redstone, Alternative D calls for nonmotorized access starting at the end of the county road, 1.3 miles into the basin. Pettet recommends putting the border line for nonmotorized use about two miles farther up the road, to provide access to a larger parking area.
Part of the Arbaney-Kittle Trail, which starts on Pitkin County property near Basalt, is designated as open to motorized use in Alternative D. Due to the popularity of this trail with hikers and equestrians, Pettet is calling for this designation to be eliminated.
“I think the safety of this trail would be compromised by motorized use,” he said.
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